Monthly Archives: June 2010


Chronographia (chro-no-graph’-i-a): Vivid representation of a certain historical or recurring time (such as a season) to create an illusion of reality. A kind of enargia: [the] generic name for a group of figures aiming at vivid, lively description.

Butterflies flutter by. Tree Swallows swallow the sky. It’s humid and hot. The drinks are poured. Summer’s back in town. Time to sit, relax, and look around.

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” ( Bracketed text added by Gorgias.


Anthypophora (an’-thi-po’-phor-a): A figure of reasoning in which one asks and then immediately answers one’s own questions (or raises and then settles imaginary objections). Reasoning aloud. Anthypophora sometimes takes the form of asking the audience or one’s adversary what can be said on a matter, and thus can involve both anacoenosis and apostrophe.

Why am I here? Because I care. Why are you here? Because you care. I care. You care. We care! What are we waiting for? Let’s get this thing cleaned up!

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (


Tmesis (tmee’-sis): Interjecting a word or phrase between parts of a compound word or between syllables of a word.

Today we start Kagan’s Senate confir-nasty-mation hearings–a showcase for partisan politics.

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (


Diaskeue (di-as-keu’-ee): Graphic peristasis (description of circumstances) intended to arouse the emotions.

I had just climbed into bed after a long flight from Taiwan to New York. It was about 10:00 a.m.  I was exhausted. I heard a loud thud on my bedroom window–like someone had thrown a soft object at it with a lot of force. I pulled up the blinds and saw a small hole in the screen with a greasy stain smeared on the glass behind it. Lying dead on the grass was a beautiful little sparrow hawk–perfectly still–its neck twisted too far to the side–broken by its collision with the window.

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (


Pysma (pys’-ma): The asking of multiple questions successively (which would together require a complex reply). A rhetorical use of the question.

Shouldn’t the G-20 be meeting in Las Vegas or Atlantic City as a tribute to the rationale of its decision making? What will the G-8’s next game of chance be? Chuck-a-Lucky Euro? Wheel of BP-Sterling? Dicing for Dollars? Global Lotto? What’s the motto? “We bet your life”?

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (


Accismus (ak-iz’-mus): A feigned refusal of that which is earnestly desired.

I won’t accept your resignation.

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (


Anacoluthon (an-a-co-lu’-thon): A grammatical interruption or lack of implied sequence within a sentence. That is, beginning a sentence in a way that implies a certain logical resolution, but concluding it differently than the grammar leads one to expect. Anacoluthon can be either a grammatical fault or a stylistic virtue, depending on its use. In either case, it is an interruption or a verbal lack of symmetry. Anacoluthon is characteristic of spoken language or interior thought, and thus suggests those domains when it occurs in writing.

We’re on our way to–where is it that we’re going again?

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (


Comprobatio (com-pro-ba’-ti-o): Approving and commending a virtue, especially in the hearers.

Generosity is aligned with all that is good. It alleviates suffering. It restores hope. It engenders trust. It is manifest in so many ways, but always, with no expectation of reward.

Tonight we are gathered to celebrate, not reward, your generosity. We are here to witness the benefits your loving kindness has brought to so many people, and moreover, to publicly observe, to better know, and to gratefully acknowledge generosity’s virtue.

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (


Procatalepsis (pro-cat-a-lep’-sis): Refuting anticipated objections.

You will claim that the the six-month moratorium is unwarranted as far as we cannot show that there is good reason to believe that current deep drilling projects do not pose a threat. We believe that there are not sufficient grounds to make that claim–we need to determine what caused the catastrophe before we allow similar operations to continue. Once the cause is determined, we will be able to make a well-founded decision regarding the overall safety of the practice and whether corrections need to be made, new safeguards implemented, or whether the practice must be abandoned altogether. Until then, we must suspend operations. In short, the moratorium serves a purpose–it provides a safe window of opportunity to ask and effectively answer some fundamental questions that will form the basis for a decision about what to do next.

Six-months are not forever. The key word here is “moratorium” and the key reason is due diligence.

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (


Eucharistia (eu-cha-ris’-ti-a): Giving thanks for a benefit received, sometimes adding one’s inability to repay.

I really appreciate what you did for me. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to repay you!

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (


Enantiosis (e-nan-ti-o’-sis): Using opposing or contrary descriptions together, typically in a somewhat paradoxical manner.

Her generosity was awe inspiring. But the greed of the countless people who took advantage of her was disgusting. It’s amazing how one person’s virtue can feed another person’s vice.

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (


Merismus (mer-is’-mus): The dividing of a whole into its parts.

Morning, noon, and night–three times to eat, three times to sleep, three times to work, three times to play–three times for everything. Time and what I do with it–two different things.  One is set by WWV.  The other is set by me.

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (


Aposiopesis (a-pos-i-o-pee’-sis): Breaking off suddenly in the middle of speaking, usually to portray being overcome with emotion.

I was driving to the mall to get my hair cut and a little bunny ran right out in front . . . I . . . I tried to . . . but . . . but  . . . it was awful. Poor little thing.

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (


Aetiologia (ae-ti-o-log’i-a): A figure of reasoning by which one attributes a cause for a statement or claim made, often as a simple relative clause of explanation.

I will not buy an i-Pad because it does not have a camera for video chat. I’m betting the next iteration will have a camera for video chat. Then, I’m in!

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (


Optatio (op-ta’-ti-o): Expressing a wish, often ardently.

Earthquakes. Explosions. Floods. Fires. Disaster after disaster after disaster. I wish the world was a more tranquil place–more than anything I can imagine, hope for, or desire I wish these things had never happened and will never happen again. But they have. And they will. Instead of wishing for what’s impossible, we should do what is possible to prepare for the worst, and possibly, as we prepare for the worst, we may cultivate a quality of foresight that permeates all of our planning.

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetorica” (


Euche (yoo’-kay): A vow to keep a promise.

I am here to tell you that we are doing everything in our power to end this crisis, to restore what has been ruined, and eventually, to bring to justice those who are to blame. As certain as tomorrow’s sunrise, we will be here morning after morning, day after day, until we can look each other in the eye and say, “Our work is done. The future is bright.”

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (


Synathroesmus (sin-ath-res’-mus): 1. The conglomeration of many words and expressions either with similar meaning (= synonymia) or not (= congeries).  2. A gathering together of things scattered throughout a speech (= accumulatio [:Bringing together various points made throughout a speech and presenting them again in a forceful, climactic way. A blend of summary and climax.])

He was generous, kind, and open minded.  He had a heart of gold. He followed the Golden Rule. He was a saint.


He stole. He gave. He won. He lost. He begged. He prospered. He failed. He succeeded. He lived a chaotic life. All extremes. No middles.


In sum, the regulators failed to regulate, the engineers made no meaningful provisions for catastrophic failure, tremendous corporate profits were made, and now it’s time for all of you to pay–to pay for the laws that were wantonly broken, to pay for the colossal lack of oversight in implementing technologies without prudent consideration of consequences and safeguards, and most importantly, to pay for the environmental devastation you caused, and the lives that you have upturned, ruptured, and taken.

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” ( Bracketed text added by Gorgias.


Astrothesia (as-tro-the’-si-a): A vivid description of stars. One type of enargia.

Every summer up in Maine, at least once, I stay up very late to stand out on the Point–waves crashing (sometimes not), warm wind blowing (sometimes not), stars starring the starry night. For 60 years, like some kind of bird hard-wired to go north, I go north. As a child I went with my parents and my sister, and later, as we grew, with our new brother and our new sister.

Again and again I have gone–through adolescence, into adulthood, after high school, after the war, after college, after all. The memories overlay every inch of Maine’s summer places.

And here I am again, a sort of old man, standing out on the Point with my wife and my daughter. It is dark. It is a deep dark dark night.  I look up again into the night sky and the stars–the billion bright stars–draw me into their presence, and I feel like an angel.

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (


Topographia (top-o-graf’-i-a): Description of a place. A kind of enargia [: {en-ar’-gi-a} generic name for a group of figures aiming at vivid, lively description].

The Field

I have a seven-acre field that I’ve landscaped in what what I call the “controlled chaos” mode. It’s pretty much on its own with goldenrod, wild grasses, milkweed, nettles, giant thistles, daisies, phlox, alfalfa, foxglove, wild roses, field ferns, wild strawberries, and more. All I do is pull enough of the plants that tend toward making a mono-culture of it–mainly the goldenrod and milkweed–to enable the other plants to thrive. It is populated and visited by birds (goldfinches, field sparrows, crows, a pair of king birds, buzzing hummingbirds and more), butterflies (monarchs, admirals, yellow and black swallowtails, checkered butterflies, sulfur butterflies, and a number of different kinds of moths), dragonflies, spiders, ants, garter snakes, ladybugs, the occasional tick, and more. Turkeys wander across the field.  Foxes hunt for mice. Deer come to graze in the early evening. Yesterday, as I was walking along the field’s edge, curled up sound asleep by a trail leading into the woods was a tiny little fawn.

The field hosts a vernal pond in March when the snow melts–a breeding place for black yellow-spotted salamanders.

At the field’s edge there are two bird boxes spaced about 100 meters apart.  Currently, there’s a tree swallow family nesting in one box and a bluebird family nesting in the other. If things go like they usually do, after the bluebirds move out, a pair of house wrens will take up residence.  I love to listen to the male when he shows up and perches on top of the box and starts to loudly sing for a mate.

I have mowed a trail that winds through the field.  The grass grows shoulder high alongside it. One of our favorite family adventures is walking the trail at night in late spring when there are thousands of fireflies flashing all around us. We stop every few feet and stand there oohing–awestruck over and over again by hundreds and hundreds of tiny random bursts of light.

The field is a hobby, a place to wander and wonder together, and a natural home for insects, birds, plants, herptiles, reptiles, and mammals.

In sum, that’s the field.

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” ( Bracketed text added by Gorgias.


Metaphor (met’-a-phor): A comparison made by referring to one thing as another.

This time in history is a fissure in the bedrock of human experience–so much is unprecedented, unanticipated, unmanageable. In the Gulf of Mexico the scientists and the engineers–the magisterial problem solvers–are lost in the unmapped territory between technology’s intentions and its consequences: the ends it is developed for and what it ends up doing.

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (


Erotema (e-ro-tem’-a): The rhetorical question. To affirm or deny a point strongly by asking it as a question. Generally, as Melanchthon has noted, the rhetorical question includes an emotional dimension, expressing wonder, indignation, sarcasm, etc.

Improve the safety standards for offshore drilling? Take the caps off of fines and damages in order to compensate for future catastrophes? Do these measures really get to the heart of the problem? Wouldn’t it be better to ban offshore drilling altogether as an incentive to develop cleaner energy sources? Why not turn the offshore oil rigs into wind farms?

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (


Epitrope (e-pi’-tro-pe): A figure in which one turns things over to one’s hearers, either pathetically, ironically, or in such a way as to suggest a proof of something without having to state it. Epitrope often takes the form of granting permission (hence its Latin name, permissio), submitting something for consideration, or simply referring to the abilities of the audience to supply the meaning that the speaker passes over (hence Puttenham’s term, figure of reference). Epitrope can be either biting in its irony, or flattering in its deference.

A specific form of epitrope is the (apparent) admission of what is wrong in order to carry our point.

Go ahead–give them permission to drill all the offshore oil wells they want to. Nobody will care. Nobody will protest. Nobody will try to have you thrown out of office. Go ahead!

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (


Coenotes (cee’-no-tees): Repetition of two different phrases: one at the beginning and the other at the end of successive paragraphs. Note: Composed of anaphora and epistrophe, coenotes is simply a more specific kind of symploce (the repetition of phrases, not merely words).

When will we get a new cell phone? When it has all the features we actually need.  And, it does not cost an arm and a leg.

When will we get a new cell phone? When there’s enough coverage to enable us to call from anywhere to anywhere.  And, it does not cost an arm and a leg.

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (


Kategoria (ka-te-go’-ri-a): Opening the secret wickedness of one’s adversary before his [or her] face.

I had you followed last night. You weren’t at your office until 2:00 a.m. You were at Motel California with our next door neighbor. I can’t live with a cheating liar. I hired an attorney this morning. I’m moving out. I’m taking the cat with me.  I’m divorcing you. Give my regards to Sleazo.

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” ( Bracketed text added by Gorgias.


Epitasis (e-pit’-a-sis): The addition of a concluding sentence that merely emphasizes what has already been stated. A kind of amplification. [The opposite of anesis.]

I can’t believe how long it’s been since we’ve had some time to ourselves. Alone at last!

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” ( Bracketed text added by Gorgias.